Er. Two book slide, make that. My weapon of choice offers no greater physical harm than papercuts, and maybe a bump on the head if you’re careless. But I feel like a John Woo character right now, for certain.
Finally, finally, finally. Karen Memory comes out next week. Tuesday, to be sure, though it’s available for pre-order now, and those numbers count towards the first week. It’s a great big shiny Weird West steampunk adventure about a girl, a battle mecha built out of a sewing machine, and a really annoying deaf white cat. Among some other things.
It’s getting consistently better reviews than anything I’ve ever done before.
And, finally, Shattered Pillars is available in long-awaited trade paperback right now! Already! As you are reading this! (Steles of the Sky will be joining it this summer.)
Buy my book!
Get out your notebooks, guys, I’ve got a lot of news.
Save the date-type object! I will be appearing at Pandemonium Books in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts at 7 pm on THURSDAY FEBRUARY 12th (That’s Boskone Eve) for a Karen Memory book launch! My beloved Scott Lynch will be with me, shilling his own stuff!
There will be cookies!
Also, I finished a draft of “The Bone War” today and wrote nearly 3,000 words doing it. My butt hurts. But I’m very pleased with how it seems to be coming out/shaping up. It’s a Bijou story, it involves paleontologists and making fun of academics, and I’ll let you know when you can read it somewhere!
Here is the tea that helped:
It’s Upton gen mai cha, and I bought the teacup in Iceland. Because I’m somebody who has been to Iceland now.
Winter is finally here, speaking of ice (see what a good segue that was?!), and the cold made the windows pretty last night, I brought some proof.
Another very fine review of Karen Memory by Russell Letson in this month’s Locus. It’s not online, but here’s my favorite bit:
“Karen Memory is a delight, a tour-de-force of historical reimagining and character creation, and a ripping yarn full of surprises…”
I’ll take it!
Gardner Dozois has announced the Table of Contents for his THIRTY-SECOND annual YBSF.
I may be in it twice.
This may make up for the cold I’m nursing.
The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-Second Annual Collection,
Edited by Gardner Dozois
The Fifth Dragon, Ian McDonald (Reach for Infinity)
The Rider, Jérôme Cigut (F&SF)
The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Online)
The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini, Chaz Brenchley (Subterranean Online)
The Regular, Ken Liu (Upgraded)
The Woman from the Ocean, Karl Bunker (Asimov’s)
Shooting the Apocalypse, Paolo Bachigalupi (The End Is Nigh)
Weather, Susan Palwick (Clarkesworld)
The Hand Is Quicker, Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Robert Silverberg)
The Man Who Sold the Moon, Cory Doctorow (Hieroglyph)
Vladimir Chong Chooses To Die, Lavie Tidhar (Analog)
Beside the Damned River, D.J. Cockburn (Interzone)
The Colonel, Peter Watts (Tor.com)
Entanglement, Vandana Singh (Hieroglyph)
White Curtain, Pavel Amnuel (F&SF)
Slipping, Lauren Beukes (Twelve Tomorrows)
Passage of Earth, Michael Swanwick (Clarkesworld)
Amicae Aeternum, Ellen Klages (Reach for Infinity)
In Babelsberg, Alastair Reynolds (Reach for Infinity)
Sadness, Timons Esaias (Analog)
West to East, Jay Lake (Subterranean Online)
Grand Jeté (The Great Leap), Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Online)
Covenant, Elizabeth Bear (Hieroglyph)
Jubilee, Karl Schroeder (Tor.com)
Los Pirates del Mar de Plastico (Pirates of the Plastic Ocean), Paul Graham Raven (Twelve Tomorrows)
Red Light, and Rain, Gareth L. Powell (Solaris Rising 3)
Coma Kings, Jessica Barber (Lightspeed)
The Prodigal Son, Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s)
God Decay, Rich Larson (Upgraded)
Blood Wedding, Robert Reed (Asimov’s)
The Long Haul, from the Annals of Transportation, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009, Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
Shadow Flock, Greg Egan (Coming Soon Enough)
Thing and Sick, Adam Roberts (Solaris Rising 3)
Communion, Mary Anne Mohanraj (Clarkesworld)
Someday, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
I see three Hieroglyph and three Reach for Infinity stories on that list, along with two apiece for Upgraded and Solaris Rising 3. Do I detect a brewing Best Anthology award rivathelry for next year?
Which give me elegant segue to my obligatory end of year shilling!
So here’s what I published in 2014.
“This Chance Planet,” Tor.com, October 22, 2014 (Ellen Datlow, ed.)
“The Hand is Quicker”, The Book of Silverberg, Gardner Dozois, ed., 2014
“You’ve Never Seen Everything,” The End is Now, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey, ed., 2014
“Terroir,” Harvest Season, Bill Roper, ed., November 2014
“Covenant,” Hieroglyph,Kathryn Cramer and Edward Finn, ed., October 2014
“No Place to Dream, But a Place to Die,” Upgraded, Neil Clarke ed., September 2014
“Madame Damnable’s Sewing Circle,” Dead Man’s Hand, John Joseph Adams, ed., 2014
Steles of the Sky, Tor (edited by Beth Meacham)
One-Eyed Jack, Prime Books (edited by Paula Guran)
* Bear Elizabeth, Karen Memory. Tor. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780765375247. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846340. SF
The Gold Rush town of Rapid City is just about what you would expect in a frontier community catering to the mining trade: rough, violent, and full of prostitutes. Karen is a “soiled dove” working at Madame Damnable’s establishment, where she and her sisters in trade serve a more respectable crowd than the poor girls who work the cribs at the waterfront. When one of those young women escapes and runs to Madame’s for help, she brings the wrath of the crib owner, Peter Bantle, on the house. Bantle, in addition to bring a vicious bully, seems to have a device that can control people’s minds.
Verdict Bear (Steles of the Sky; Blood and Iron) pumps fresh energy in the steampunk genre with a light touch on the gadgetry and a vivid sense of place. Karen has a voice that is folksy but true, and the entire cast of heroic women doing the best they can in an age that was not kind to their gender is a delight. Ably assisted by a U.S. Marshal and his Comanche posseman, Karen and the ladies kick ass.
Also on the morning wire–actually, this is a couple of days old, but I was at Windycon trying to be charming when it broke–Steles of the Sky is one of the Kirkus 100 Best Books for 2014!
Is this what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with Kirkus?
I like it. I really like it.
Steampunk: Something of a new venture for Bear, whose previous output (Steles of the Sky, 2014, etc.) has ranged from heroic fantasy to science fiction, often with an embedded murder mystery.
By the late 19th century, airships ply the trade and passenger routes, optimistic miners head in droves for the Alaskan gold fields, and steam-powered robots invented by licensed Mad Scientists do much of the heavy (and sometimes delicate) work. In Rapid City on the U.S. northwest coast, Madame Damnable operates the Hôtel Mon Cherie, a high-class bordello, paying a hefty “sewing machine tax” for the privilege. Here, orphaned horse-breaker and narrator Karen Memery (Bear doesn’t tell us why the book’s title is spelled differently) works among similarly lively, engaging and resourceful girls. One night, Priya, a malnourished but tough young woman, arrives at the door carrying the badly wounded Merry Lee, who escaped from one of the grim brothels operated by brutal gangster Peter Bantle and has since made a career of rescuing other indentured girls from Bantle’s clutches. Madame Damnable’s steam-powered mechanical surgeon saves Merry’s life—but not before Bantle himself shows up, wearing, Karen notes, a peculiar glove that somehow can compel others to obey his commands. Worse, the following night the girls discover the body of a murdered prostitute nearby. U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves arrives with his Comanche sidekick, Tomoatooah; they’re tracking a serial killer who seems to have made his way to Rapid City. The story swiftly knots itself into steampunk-ishly surreal complications, with dauntless (and, by this point, love-stricken) Karen in the thick of the action.
Supplies all the Bear necessities: strong female characters, existential threats, intriguing developments and a touch of the light fantastic.
I’m just gonna put that Cynthia Sheppard cover on everything from now on. I love it so very, very much.
So, I come to you tonight, on the evening of the World Fantasy Awards, to congratulate the winners–and to talk a little bit about Howie’s Head.
First: Congratulations, winners! I’m thrilled for every one of you! And congratulations, nominees! You get to feel almost as smug.
And now on to the controversy, and my completely personal take on it.
For those of you who don’t know, the World Fantasy Award statuette is a wonderfully grotesque Gahan Wilson caricature sculpture of H. P. Lovecraft. It’s fondly known as “the Easter Island Head,” which should give you an idea of what it looks like, if you haven’t seen one.
It definitely has a bit of the Innsmouth Look, if you know what I mean, which is probably only appropriate.
So, there are people in the community who would like to see the statuette changed, because it honors somebody (H. P. Lovecraft) who was in his work and his life undeniably racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic*. And not any garden-variety systemic racist, either: this was a person whose vicious and frankly nauseating racial determinism and belief in genetic “degeneracy” serves as a foundation for his entire body of work.
It’s existential despair and visceral horror of “miscegenation” all the way down, like a stack of turtles descending into the abyss.
When it comes to the statue, I… have mixed emotions. I personally would love an ugly stumpy Howie head in my living room, whether it were to be me or that boy I like who were to bring it home. My reasons for this are personal and illogical and completely subjective:
First, frankly, I love Gahan Wilson. I have a complicated relationship with Lovecraft, but his work was formative for me back in the day, and arguing with his racism did win me a Hugo. More objectively, he is one of the people who created the foundations of fantastic fiction and the modern genre of fantasy.
And… the World Fantasy Award is something I’ve aspired to for decades. I’d love to create something that was found worthy of this recognition someday.
In short, I have a deep personal affection for the ugly old thing. I covet it, the way I once coveted a shiny rocket ship. (I kind of covet a cube of lucite with some planets in, too, but I’ve never been nominated for one of those.)
What other major genre award comes with a dead-serious warning not to put it in your fishtank? (It kills the fish. Which is, again, only appropriate.)
But…here’s the thing. I consider Nnedi Okorafor a friend, and I also consider her to be one of the best writers in the genre today. And she’s a recipient of this award. (Interestingly, the year she won, the best novel nominees included two other black female writers.) Her essay on the topic is here.
Go read it.
Whatever my personal affection for the ugly little lump of fish-poisoning pewter is, my feelings can’t compare with the conflict that people like Nnedi feel when honored for groundbreaking work like Who Fears Death (Go read that, too, but finish this first, there’s not much left.) with a statuette that is a constant reminder of, in her words: “The fact that many of The Elders we honor and need to learn from hate or hated us.”
My attachment to the current statue can never be as important as that.
I understand from twitter that the WFA committee stated this year that changing the statuette is under consideration. Scott and I had a conversation about this in the car not long ago, and one of the things we talked about is that one way to resolve some of these conflicts between tradition and attempting to be decent human beings would be to establish a rotating stable of heads, as it were.
I’m a huge fan of the brilliant Octavia Butler, but I’m not sure she’s a good choice for this particular honor: not only was she predominately a science fiction writer, but she’s a terribly recent loss to the field and remains a much-beloved and mourned friend of many.
But even if we continue to honor writers who have been gone for at least twenty years–or longer–there are a number of people who could be recognized: Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Scheherazade, J.R.R. Tolkien, T. H. White, Hope Mirrlees, and Sutton E. Griggs, to name a few.
Gahan Wilson’s still around, you know.
*He was also mentally ill, and I suspect some of his incredible churning fear of the Other stems from that mental illness. Which is not an excuse in any way for things like the poem Nnedi quotes.